Fair housing

Dale Hartle, president of the Ohio Regional Develoment Corporation, discusses fair housing issues on Tuesday morning with Richland County commissioners Tony Vero, Marilyn John and Darrell Banks.

MANSFIELD -- Landlords cannot deny a prospective renter based on his or her ethnicity.

A bank cannot charge a potential home buyer a higher interest rate for a mortgage based on their gender.

A homeowner who decides to rent their property to someone in a wheelchair cannot deny that person the right to build an access ramp to the front door.

Those may seem like common sense rules today. But fair housing efforts to prevent discrimination in the United States date back more than 150 years.

That's when Congress passed the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1866, guaranteeing "all U.S. citizens the rights to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, or convey real and personal property."

Dale Hartle, president of the Ohio Regional Development Corporation, went over some of the fair housing guidelines found in federal and state laws on Tuesday morning during a meeting with Richland County commissioners.

Hartle said such informational sessions are required by law since the county receives federal and state funds each year. The good news, according to the Coshocton-based Hartle, is the Community Housing Improvement Program is succeeding.

"We are very pleased with the progress of it. It's serving a lot of people," he said.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act specifically prohibits discrimination in any area of housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. In 2008, Ohio added an eighth protected class for those serving in the military or who had served in the military.

Based upon those eight protected areas in Ohio, it's illegal to:

-- refuse to sell, rent, finance or insure housing or property.

-- tell any person that housing is not available for inspection, sale, rent or lease.

-- refuse to lend money for the purchase, construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance of housing or property.

-- discriminate against any person in the terms and conditions of fire, extended coverage or homeowner's insurance.

-- refuse to consider the income of both the husband and/or wife in the purchase or financing of housing or property.

-- print, publish or circulate any statement or advertisement which would indicate a preference or establish limitations.

-- deny any person membership in the multiple listing or real estate service.

For example, a landlord cannot deny someone the opportunity to rent an apartment because the potential renter has children. An exception to that, Hartle said, would be it in a housing complex specifically designated for senior citizens.

"You can't say because you're handicapped, or an ethnic person, or because ... any of those (eight protected classes) that we won't rent to you, we won't sell to you or we will charge you a higher interest rate than we will anyone else," he said.

He said banks, lenders and Real Estate agents also cannot steer prospective buyers or renters away from a specific neighborhood.

A landlord has to "make reasonable accommodations" for a handicapped tenant, such as a wheelchair ramp to the front door, but the cost for the ramp and other improvements must be borne by the tenant, Hartle said.

In other matters Tuesday, commissioners:

-- proclaimed September to be Prostate Awareness Month, encouraging men of all ages in Richland County to be tested.

-- approved a contract to provide commercial building and codes work for the Village of Nevada in Crawford County.

-- delayed action on a contract with Securus Technologies from Texas to provide tablets to Richland County Jail inmates, who would use them to download and read e-books and also receive their mail. The inmates would pay for these tablets and services. Commissioners are waiting on guidance from the prosecutor's office on the contract and also information from the sheriff's department.

-- met in executive session to discuss contract negotiations with employees of the Child Support Enforcement Agency.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"